. 6
( 19)


accomplir = to accomplish ¬nir
accourir = to run up courir
accueillir = to welcome cueillir
acheter = to buy acheter
achever = to complete mener
acqu´ rir = to acquire
e present “ acquiers/acquiers/acquiert/
acqu´ rons/acqu´ rez/ acqui` rent; future and conditional “
e e e
acquerrai, etc; acquerrais, etc; past historic “ acquis/
acquis/ acquit/acquˆmes/acquˆtes/acquirent; past
± ±
participle acquis
adh´ rer = to stick
e esp´ rer
admettre = to admit mettre


verb conjugated like
adoucir = to soften ¬nir
affaiblir = to weaken ¬nir
affermir = to strengthen ¬nir
af¬‚iger = to af¬‚ict manger
affranchir = to liberate ¬nir
agacer = to annoy commencer
agir = to act ¬nir
agrandir = to enlarge ¬nir
aller = to go aller
allonger = to lengthen manger
alourdir = to weigh down ¬nir
alt´ rer = to affect
e esp´ rer
amaigrir = to slim ¬nir
amener = to bring mener
annoncer = to announce commencer
apercevoir = to notice recevoir
apparaˆtre = to appear
± paraˆtre
appartenir = to belong venir
appeler = to call appeler
applaudir = to applaud ¬nir
apprendre = to learn prendre
appuyer = to support essayer
assaillir = to attack cueillir
(s™)asseoir = to sit (down) (s™)asseoir
atteindre = to reach present “ atteins/atteins/atteint/atteignons/atteignez/
atteignent; past historic “ atteignis/atteignis/atteignit/
atteignˆmes/atteignˆtes/atteignirent ; past participle “
± ±
attendre = to wait vendre
avancer = to advance commencer
avertir = to warn ¬nir
avoir = to have avoir
balancer = to sway commencer
bannir = to banish ¬nir
battre = to beat battre
b´ gayer = to stammer
e essayer
b´ nir = to bless
e ¬nir
blanchir = to whiten ¬nir
blasph´ mer = to blaspheme
e esp´ rer
boire = to drink boire
bondir = to leap ¬nir
bouger = to move manger
broyer = to crush essayer
brunir = to burnish ¬nir
cacheter = to seal jeter
c´ der = to yield
e esp´ rer
c´ l´ brer = to celebrate
ee esp´ rer
chanceler = to totter appeler
changer = to change manger
charger = to load manger

176 The list

verb conjugated like
ch´ rir = to cherish
e ¬nir
choisir = to choose ¬nir
combattre = to ¬ght battre
commencer = to begin commencer
commercer = to trade commencer
commettre = to commit mettre
compl´ ter = to complete
e esp´ rer
comprendre = to prendre
compromettre = to mettre
conc´ der = to concede
e esp´ rer
concevoir = to conceive recevoir
conclure = to conclude conclure
conduire = to drive conduire
confondre = to confound r´ pondre
connaˆtre = to know
± paraˆtre
conqu´ rir = to conquer venir + acqu´ rir
e e
consentir = to consent courir
consid´ rer = to consider
e esp´ rer
construire = to construct conduire
contraindre = to constrain craindre
contredire = to contradict dire but 2nd pers pl present “ contredisez
contrefaire = to counterfeit faire
convaincre = to convince vaincre
convenir = to admit, to agree venir
convertir = to convert ¬nir
corrompre = to corrupt rompre
coudoyer = to mix with essayer
courir = to run courir
couvrir = to cover ouvrir
craindre = to fear craindre
crever = to burst mener
croire = to believe croire
cueillir = to gather cueillir
cuire = to cook conduire
d´ battre = to discuss
e battre
d´ cevoir = to deceive
e recevoir
d´ charger = to unload
e manger
d´ courager = discourage
e manger
d´ couvrir = to discover
e ouvrir
d´ crire = to describe ´
e ecrire
d´ dicacer = dedicate
e commencer
d´ duire = to deduce
e conduire
d´ faillir = to faint
e faillir
d´ faire = to undo
e faire
d´ fendre = to defend
e vendre
d´ ¬nir = to de¬ne
e ¬nir
d´ gager = to free
e manger


verb conjugated like
d´ geler = to defrost
e acheter
d´ lib´ rer = to discuss
ee esp´ rer
d´ m´ nager = to move
ee manger
d´ molir = to demolish
e ¬nir
d´ noncer = to denounce
e commencer
d´ peindre = to depict
e atteindre
d´ pendre = to depend
e prendre
d´ placer = to dislodge
e commencer
d´ plaire = to displease
e plaire
d´ ranger = to disturb
e manger
descendre = to descend vendre
d´ sesp´ rer = to despair
e e esp´ rer
d´ sob´ ir = to disobey
e e ¬nir
dess´ cher = to dry out
e esp´ rer
d´ tendre = to release
e vendre
d´ truire = to destroy
e conduire
devancer = to outstrip commencer
devenir = to become venir
devoir = to owe devoir
dig´ rer = to digest
e esp´ rer
dire = to speak dire
diriger = to direct manger
disparaˆtre = to disappear
± paraˆtre
dissoudre = to dissolve absoudre; but no past historic or imperfect subjunctive
divertir = to entertain ¬nir
dormir = to sleep dormir
eblouir = to dazzle
´ ¬nir
echanger = to exchange
´ manger
eclaircir = to clarify
´ ¬nir
ecrire = to write
´ ´
egayer = to enliven
´ essayer
elargir = to broaden
´ ¬nir
elever = to raise
´ mener
elire = to elect
´ lire
embellir = to embellish ¬nir
emettre = to emit
´ mettre
emmener = to lead mener
employer = to employ essayer
encourager = to encourage manger
endommager = to damage manger
enfoncer = to push in commencer
engager = to hire manger
enlacer = to embrace commencer
enlaidir = to make ugly ¬nir
enlever = to take off mener
ennuyer = to bore essayer
enoncer = to pronounce
´ commencer
enrichir = to enrich ¬nir
entendre = to hear vendre

176 The list

verb conjugated like
entrelacer = to intertwine commencer
entreprendre = to prendre
entretenir = to maintain venir
entrevoir = to glimpse voir
enum´ rer = to enumerate
´ e esp´ rer
envahir = to invade ¬nir
envisager = to envisage manger
envoyer = to send envoyer
epeler = to spell
´ appeler
eponger = to mop
´ manger
eriger = to erect
´ manger
esp´ rer = to hope
e esp´ rer
essayer = to try y > i in sg + 3rd pers pl present tense; in future and conditional
“i“ is used throughout “ essaierai, etc; essaierais, etc
essuyer = to wipe essayer
etablir = to establish
´ ¬nir
eteindre = to extinguish
´ atteindre
etendre = to stretch
´ vendre
etinceler = to sparkle
´ appeler
etre = to be
ˆ ˆ
etreindre = to embrace
´ atteindre
exag´ rer = to exaggerate
e esp´ rer
exc´ der = to exceed
e esp´ rer
exclure = to exclude conclure
faiblir = to weaken ¬nir
faillir = to almost present “ faux/faux/faut/faillons/faillez/faillent
faire = to do faire
falloir = to be necessary falloir
feindre = to feign atteindre
fendre = to split vendre
feuilleter = to leaf through jeter
¬nir = to ¬nish ¬nir
¬‚´ chir = to bend
e ¬nir
foncer = to tear along commencer
fondre = to melt r´ pondre
forcer = to force commencer
franchir = to cross ¬nir
fr´ mir = to shudder
e ¬nir
froncer = to frown commencer
fuir = to ¬‚ee courir + y instead of i for 1st and 2nd pl in present
garantir = to guarantee ¬nir
garnir = to garnish ¬nir
geindre = to whine atteindre
geler = to freeze acheter
g´ mir = to groan
e ¬nir
grandir = to get bigger ¬nir
grimacer = to grimace commencer
grincer = to creak commencer


verb conjugated like
grossir = to get fatter ¬nir
gu´ rir = to cure
e ¬nir
ha¨r = to hate ¬nir + keeps diaeresis in pl, not sg, of present tense; retains
diaeresis throughout past historic
haleter = to pant acheter
harceler = to harass acheter
immerger = to immerse manger
incin´ rer = to cremate
e esp´ rer
inclure = to include conclure
inf´ rer = to infer
e esp´ rer
in¬‚iger = to in¬‚ict manger
inqui´ ter = to worry
e esp´ rer
inscrire = to enrol ´
instruire = to teach conduire
interc´ der = to intercede
e esp´ rer
interdire = to forbid dire but 2nd pers pl present “ interdisez
interf´ rer = to interfere
e esp´ rer
interpr´ ter = to interpret
e esp´ rer
interrompre = to interrupt rompre
intervenir = to intervene venir
introduire = to introduce conduire
jaillir = to spurt ¬nir
jaunir = to turn yellow ¬nir
jeter = to throw jeter
joindre = to join present “ joins/joins/joint/joignons/joignez/joignent;
jouir = to enjoy ¬nir
juger = to judge manger
lacer = to lace up commencer
lancer = to throw commencer
l´ cher = to lick
e esp´ rer
lib´ rer = to liberate
e esp´ rer
lire = to read lire
loger = to lodge manger
luire = to glow conduire but past historic luis/luis/luit/luˆmes/luˆtes/
± ±
maigrir = to slim ¬nir
maintenir = to maintain venir
malmener = to manhandle mener
manger = to eat manger
maudire = to curse dire but pl present “ maudissez/maudissons/maudissent
m´ connaˆtre = to
e ± paraˆtre
m´ dire = to malign
e dire but 2nd pers pl present “ m´ disez
m´ langer = to mix
e manger
menacer = to threaten commencer
m´ nager = to handle
e manger
mener = to lead mener
mentir = to lie courir “ 1st pers present “ mens
mettre = to put mettre
176 The list

verb conjugated like
mordre = to bite perdre
mourir = to die mourir
munir = to equip ¬nir
nager = to swim manger
naˆtre = to be born
± paraˆtre; but past historic “ naquis/naquis/naquit/
± ±
n´ gliger = to neglect
e manger
neiger = to snow manger
nettoyer = to clean essayer
noircir = to blacken ¬nir
noyer = to drown essayer
nuire = to harm conduire
ob´ ir = to obey
e ¬nir
obtenir = to obtain venir
offrir = to offer ouvrir
omettre = to omit mettre
op´ rer = to operate
e esp´ rer
outrager = to outrage manger
ouvrir = to open ouvrir
palir = to turn pale
ˆ ¬nir
parachever = to complete mener
paraˆtre = to appear
± present “ parais/parais/paraˆt/paraissons/paraissez/
paraissent; past historic “ parus/parus/parut/
ˆ ˆ
parumes/parutes/parurent; past participle “ paru
parcourir = to peruse courir
partager = to share manger
partir = to leave partir
parvenir = to reach venir
payer = to pay essayer; has either “i“ or “y“ in future and conditional “
paierai/payerai, etc; paierais/payerais, etc
p´ cher = to sin
e esp´ rer
peindre = to paint atteindre
pendre = to hang vendre
p´ n´ trer = to penetrate
ee esp´ rer
percer = to pierce commencer
percevoir = to notice recevoir
perdre = to lose perdre
p´ rir = to perish
e ¬nir
permettre = to allow mettre
perp´ trer = to perpetrate
e esp´ rer
peser = to weigh mener
pincer = to pinch commencer
placer = to place commencer
plaindre = to pity craindre
plaire = to please present “ plais/plais/plaˆt/plaisons/plaisez, plaisent;
ˆ ˆ
past historic plus/plus/plut/plumes/plutes/plurent
pleuvoir = to rain pleuvoir
plonger = to dive manger
ployer = to fold essayer


verb conjugated like
polir = to polish ¬nir
poursuivre = to pursue suivre
pourvoir = to provide voir; but future and conditional different “ pourvoirai, etc;
pourvoirais, etc
pouvoir = to be able pouvoir
pr´ dire = to predict
e dire but 2nd pers pl present “ pr´ disez
pr´ f´ rer = to prefer
ee esp´ rer
prendre = to take prendre
prescrire = to prescribe ´
pr´ tendre = to claim
e vendre
pr´ venir = to warn
e venir
pr´ voir = to foresee
e voir; but future and conditional different “ pr´ voirai, etc;
pr´ voirais, etc
produire = to produce conduire
projeter = to project jeter
prolonger = to prolong manger
promener = to walk mener
promettre = to promise mettre
prononcer = to pronounce commencer
proscrire = to forbid ´
prot´ ger = to protect
e esp´ rer + manger
punir = to punish ¬nir
racheter = to redeem acheter
rafraˆchir = to refresh
± ¬nir
rager = to rage manger
rajeunir = to rejuvenate ¬nir
rallonger = to extend manger
ramener = to bring back mener
ranger = to put away manger
rappeler = to recall appeler
ravir = to delight ¬nir
rayer = to delete essayer
recevoir = to receive recevoir
reconnaˆtre = to recognise
± paraˆtre
recouvrir = to recover ouvrir
recueillir = to collect cueillir
r´ diger = to edit
e manger
r´ duire = to reduce
e conduire
r´ f´ rer = to refer
ee esp´ rer
r´ ¬‚´ chir = to re¬‚ect
ee ¬nir
re¬‚´ ter = to re¬‚ect
e esp´ rer
r´ it´ rer = to reiterate
ee esp´ rer
rejeter = to reject jeter
se r´ jouir = to rejoice
e ¬nir
reluire = to glisten conduire but past historic “ reluis/reluis/reluit/reluˆmes/ ±
remplacer = to replace commencer
remplir = to ¬ll ¬nir
renoncer = to renounce commencer

176 The list

verb conjugated like
renouveler = to renew appeler
renvoyer = to send away essayer
r´ pandre = to spread
e vendre
r´ partir = to distribute
e ¬nir (nb not partir)
se repentir = to repent courir “ present “ repens
r´ p´ ter = to repeat
ee esp´ rer
r´ pondre = to reply
e r´ pondre
reprendre = to take back prendre
reproduire = to reproduce conduire
requ´ rir = to require venir + acqu´ rir
e e
r´ soudre = to resolve
e absoudre; but past historic “ r´ solus/r´ solus/resolut/
e e
ˆ ˆ
r´ solumes/r´ solutes/ r´ solurent
e e e
ressentir = to feel courir “ present “ ressens
retenir = to retain venir
r´ unir = to assemble
e ¬nir
r´ ussir = to succeed
e ¬nir
r´ v´ ler = to reveal
ee esp´ rer
revenir = to come back venir
rire = to laugh rire
rompre = to break rompre
rougir = to blush ¬nir
saillir = to jut out cueillir
saisir = to seize ¬nir
salir = to soil ¬nir
satisfaire = to satisfy faire
savoir = to know savoir
s´ cher = to dry
e esp´ rer
secourir = to help courir
s´ duire = to seduce
e conduire
semer = to sow mener
sentir = to feel courir “ present “ sens
servir = to serve courir “ present “ sers
songer = to daydream manger
sortir = to go out courir “ present “ sors
souffrir = to suffer ouvrir
soulager = to relieve manger
soulever = to lift mener
soumettre = to submit mettre
soupeser = to weigh up mener
sourire = to smile rire
souscrire = to subscribe ´
soutenir = to sustain venir
se souvenir = to remember venir
subir = to undergo ¬nir
subvenir = to meet venir
succ´ der = to succeed
e esp´ rer
suf¬re = to suf¬ce lire
sugg´ rer = to suggest
e esp´ rer
suivre = to follow present “ suis/suis/suit otherwise vendre


verb conjugated like
surgir = to appear suddenly ¬nir
surprendre = to surprise prendre
suspendre = to suspend vendre
taire = to be quiet present “ tais/tais/tait/taisons/taisez/taisent; past
ˆ ˆ
historic “ tus/tus/tut/tumes/tutes/turent
tendre = to hold out vendre
tenir = to hold venir
tordre = to twist perdre
tracer = to draw commencer
traduire = to translate conduire
trahir = to betray ¬nir
transcrire = to transcribe ´
transf´ rer = to transfer
e esp´ rer
tressaillir = to tremble cueillir
tutoyer = to use ˜tu™ essayer
unir = to unite ¬nir
vaincre = to vanquish present “ vaincs/vaincs/vainc/vainquons/vainquez/
vainquent; past historic “ vainquis/vainquis/vainquit/
vainquˆmes/vainquˆtes/vainquirent; past participle “
± ±
valoir = to be worth valoir
vendre = to sell vendre
venger = to avenge manger
venir = to come venir
vˆ tir = to clothe
e partir; past participle “ vˆ tu
vieillir = to grow old ¬nir
vivre = to live vivre
voir = to see voir
vomir = to vomit ¬nir
vouloir = to want to vouloir
vouvoyer = to use ˜vous™ essayer
voyager = to travel manger

Chapter 5 Nouns and adjectives


177 Nouns
As has been seen, the verb is the pivotal element of the sentence (see 2) “ indeed a sentence
may consist entirely of a verb (viens! = come on!, ecoute! = listen! ) or a verb and subject
pronoun (je viens = I™m coming, j™´ coute = I™m listening); see 453. But very often the verb
is accompanied by one or more nouns, or a noun and an adjective or two, and this adds
more information and detail to the sentence.
Nouns in French have very much the same characteristics as nouns in English and
may be used in very much the same ways. What follows is a brief r´ sum´ of their major
e e
general characteristics and uses.
Nouns are words which are preceded by a determiner “ such as the de¬nite or inde¬nite
article, demonstrative or possessive adjective “ and/or an adjective, and may be followed
by an adjective and/or an adjectival phrase or clause (see 178, 247“272) “
de¬nite article “ le succ` s = success, le secret de la coloration = the secret of colouring
inde¬nite article “ une fois = once, un geste simple = a simple gesture
demonstrative adjective “ ce cocktail que je viens de pr´ parer = this cocktail that
I™ve just prepared
possessive adjective “ votre propri´ taire = your landlord, ses r´ actions = her reactions
e e
The noun may refer to concrete and abstract items “ to people, objects, places, ideas.
As far as its function is concerned, it may be “
subject of the verb “
Des dents blanches sont un atout esth´ tique majeur = white teeth are a major
aesthetic asset
complement of the subject or object “
Il est devenu un footballeur c´ l` bre = he became a famous football star
Jacques Chirac l™a nomm´ pr´ sident d™une commission de r´ ¬‚exion =
ee e
Jacques Chirac appointed him chairman of a think tank
direct or indirect object “
Avant de prendre le volant = before taking hold of the steering wheel
` ˆ
Ce compl´ ment convient a tous les jeunes qui veulent controler leur
poids = this supplement is suitable for all those young people who want to control their weight
in a prepositional expression “
N™oubliez pas de boire avant, pendant et apr` s les efforts = don™t forget to drink
before, during and after exertion


Le temps des d´ sillusions = disillusionment time
L™´ v´ nement a et´ annonc´ dans la revue interne de la compagnie = the event
ee e
was announced in the company™s in-house journal


178 Gender
Gender in English is based upon sexual characteristics “ girl, woman, actress, ¬lly, cow, hen
are all female by virtue of their physical attributes, and man, boy, lad, guy, bull, stallion are
all male by virtue of their physical attributes. Nouns that do not have sexual attributes,
real or supposed (as a result of personi¬cation a boat may be called her), have no gender,
are neutral.
In French the situation is different. French has a dual system for gender assignment.

1 Gender is dependent upon sexual identity in the same way as English “ but this is
only for a limited number of animate nouns.
2 For most nouns gender assignment is a grammatical matter, the result of syntactic

Consequently, as a result of the operation of system 1, male persons are indicated by the
masculine gender, and female persons by the feminine gender. However, occasionally
system 2, the grammatical principle, takes priority over sexual gender, and produces
anomalies “
personne and victime are always feminine in gender even if they refer to male
and docteur and professeur are always masculine whether they refer to women or
The matter of sexual gender is discussed in 186.
Gender pervades a very large proportion of the French grammatical system. The gen-
der of nouns affects the form of the determiners that modify them. The determiners
involved are the de¬nite, inde¬nite and partitive articles, possessive, demonstrative, rela-
tive and interrogative adjectives, and negative and inde¬nite adjectives. These are dealt
with in 247“272. The gender of nouns also affects agreement of adjectives, pronouns,
past participles. These are dealt with in 105, 108, 194, 207, 208, 225.

179 Assigning gender
Because grammatical gender permeates the French syntactic system, involving every
noun and pronoun, together with the knock-on effect of agreement of adjectives and
past participles with the nouns and pronouns, knowledge of the correct gender of a noun
is of vital importance.
Fortunately, there are some patterns that help with assigning the correct gender to a
noun, some connected with the meaning of the noun, others with its form. Unfortunately,
there are exceptions to most patterns, and many nouns do not fall within these patterns.
In such cases, the gender of the noun has to be learnt individually.

180 Patterns for masculine gender

In the following lists, normally, two examples will be given for each case, plus all
the most common exceptions. Although the exceptions may seem numerous, the nouns
which ˜observe the rule™ are much more numerous “ it™s just that space does not allow
them all to be mentioned.

180 Patterns for masculine gender
1 Patterns based on meaning
names of days of the week “ le dimanche = Sunday, le mercredi = Wednesday
names of months “ le janvier = January, le mars = March
names of seasons “ le printemps = spring, l™´ t´ (m) = summer
names of languages “ le francais = French, le roumain = Romanian
names of trees and shrubs “ le chˆ ne = oak tree, le poirier = pear tree
exceptions “ une aub´ pine = hawthorn, la ronce = bramble, la vigne = vine
names of cheeses and wines “ le brie, le camembert, le champagne, le bordeaux
names of metals and minerals “ le cuivre = copper, le mercure = mercury
exceptions “ une emeraude = emerald, la perle = pearl, la roche = rock
names of colours “ le jaune = yellow, le rose = pink
names of weights and measures, cardinal numbers “ le litre = litre, le quart = quarter,
le six = (number) six
exception “ la moiti´ = half, and numerals ending in “aine (la soixantaine =
about sixty)
names of human agents, ending in “eur “ le directeur = the head teacher, le docteur =
names of human agents, ending in “ien “ le Parisien = Parisian, le pharmacien =
names of boats “ le ˜France™, le ˜Reine Elizabeth™
names of aeroplanes “ le Concorde, le Boeing
exception “ la Caravelle

2 Patterns based on form
nouns formed from in¬nitives “ le coucher = bedtime, le devoir = duty, le rire =
nouns formed from adjectives “ le possible = what is possible, le s´ rieux = seriousness
nouns ending in “acle “ un obstacle = obstacle, le spectacle = spectacle
nouns with two or more syllables ending in “age “ le clonage = cloning, le
maquillage = make-up
exception “ une image = image
nouns ending in -ai “ le balai = broom, un essai = try (in rugby)
nouns ending in “ail “ le d´ tail = detail, le travail = work
nouns ending in “at “ le certi¬cat = certi¬cate, le r´ sultat = result


nouns ending in “´ “ le caf´ = coffee, le p´ ch´ = sin
e e ee
exceptions “ une acn´ = acne, la cl´ (also spelt clef) = key
e e
nouns ending in “eau “ le carreau = square, le plateau = tray
exceptions “ une eau = water, la peau = skin
nouns ending in “` de “ un interm` de = interlude, le rem` de = remedy
e e e
nouns ending in “` ge “ le coll` ge = college, le man` ge = roundabout
e e e
nouns ending in “eil “ le soleil = sun, le sommeil = sleep
nouns ending in “` me “ le probl` me = problem, le syst` me = system
e e e
exception “ la cr` me = cream
nouns ending in “er when “er is sounded [e] “ le clocher = belfry, le petit d´ jeuner
= breakfast “ and when “er is pronounced [µr] “ le cancer = cancer, le starter = choke
(of car)
exceptions “ la cuiller = spoon, la mer = sea
nouns ending in “` s “ le progr` s = progress, le succ` s = success
e e e
nouns ending in “et “ le projet = project, le secret = secret
nouns ending in “euil “ le deuil = mourning, le seuil = threshold
nouns ending in “i when sounded [i] “ un abri = shelter, le parti (political) party
exception “ la fourmi = ant
nouns ending in “ier “ le calendrier = calendar, le papier = paper
nouns ending in “ing “ le camping = campsite, le parking = car park
nouns ending in “isme “ un organisme = organism, le scepticisme = scepticism
nouns ending in “ment “ le divertissement = entertainment, le paiement = payment
exception “ la jument = mare
nouns ending in “o “ le num´ ro = number, le z´ ro = zero
e e
exception “ la dynamo = dynamo
nouns ending in “oi “ un emploi = job, le tournoi = tournament
exceptions “ la foi = faith, la loi = law
nouns ending in “oir “ le miroir = mirror, le peignoir = dressing gown
nouns ending in “ou “ le chou = cabbage, le genou = knee
nouns ending in “our “ le carrefour = crossroads, le retour = return
exceptions “ la cour = yard, la tour = tower (not = trick, turn which is le tour)
nouns ending in “ueil “ un accueil = welcome, un orgueil = pride
plus a few small sets of nouns, ending for example in “gramme (le kilogramme =
kilogramme), “m` tre (le centim` tre = centimetre), “scope (le magn´ toscope = tape
e e e
plus nouns ending in the following consonants “
“c “ le lac = lake, le sac = bag
“d “ le bord = edge, le pied = foot
and “g, “l, “r, “t as illustrated above.

181 Patterns for feminine gender

181 Patterns for feminine gender
1 Patterns based on meaning
names of fruit and vegetables ending in “e “ la carotte = carrot, la fraise = strawberry
exceptions “ le concombre = cucumber, le pamplemousse = grapefruit
names of academic subjects “ la linguistique = linguistics, la physique = physics
exception “ le droit = law
names of cars “ une Renault, une deux-chevaux, une BMW
names designating females ending in “esse “ une hotesse = hostess,
la princesse = princess
names of human agents ending in “euse “ la chanteuse = singer,
la masseuse = masseuse
names of human agents ending in “ienne “ la pharmacienne = female pharmacist,
la v´ g´ tarienne = vegetarian
names of human agents ending in “i` re “ la meurtri` re = female murderer,
e e
une hotelli` re = hotelier
ˆ e
names of human agents ending in “trice “ une actrice = actress, la directrice =
head teacher

2 Patterns based on form
nouns ending in “ace “ la race = (ethnic) race, la surface = surface
exception “ un espace = space
nouns ending in “ade “ une orangeade = orangeade, la promenade = walk
exceptions “ le grade = rank, le stade = stadium
nouns ending in “aie “ la monnaie = currency, la plaie = wound
nouns ending in “aille “ la bataille = battle, les ¬ancailles = engagement
nouns ending in “aine “ la haine = hatred, la quinzaine = fortnight
nouns ending in “aison “ la combinaison = combination, la raison = reason
nouns ending in “ance “ une alliance = wedding ring, alliance, la distance = distance
nouns ending in “´ e “ une entr´ e = entry, la soir´ e = evening
e e e
exceptions “ le lyc´ e = secondary school, le mus´ e = museum, le troph´ e = trophy
e e e
nouns ending in “eine “ la baleine = whale, la peine = punishment
nouns ending in “ence “ la diff´ rence = difference, une in¬‚uence = in¬‚uence
exception “ le silence = silence
nouns ending in “euse “ la perceuse = drill, la tondeuse = lawnmower
nouns ending in “ie “ la partie = part, la vie = life
exceptions “ le g´ nie = genius, engineering, un incendie = ¬re, le parapluie =
nouns ending in “i` re “ la bi` re = beer, la lumi` re = light
e e e
exceptions “ le cimeti` re = cemetery, le derri` re = behind, bottom
e e


nouns ending in “ine “ la colline = hill, la piscine = swimming pool
exception “ le magazine = magazine
nouns ending in “ise “ la chemise = shirt, la marchandise = goods
exception “ le pare-brise = windscreen (see 187, 3)
nouns ending in “sion or “tion “ la t´ l´ vision = television, la traduction = translation
nouns ending in “t´ “ la bont´ = goodness, la dif¬cult´ = dif¬culty
e e e
exceptions “ un arrˆ t´ = decree, le comit´ = committee, l™´ t´ = summer
ee e ee
nouns ending in “tude “ une attitude = attitude, la solitude = loneliness
nouns ending in “ure “ la ceinture = belt, la ¬gure = face
nouns ending in a double consonant + “e “ une etoffe = material, la dentelle = lace,
la poubelle = wastebin, la bouteille = bottle, la taille = waist, size, une antenne =
aerial, la grippe = ¬‚u, la caisse = cashtill, la cuisse = thigh, la chaussette = sock, la
serviette = towel, briefcase
exceptions “ un intervalle = interval, le squelette = skeleton, le gorille = gorilla,
le portefeuille = wallet
plus a few small sets of nouns ending in “` che (la br` che = breach), “` que (la
e e e
discoth` que = discotheque), “` se (une hypoth` se = hypothesis), “` ve (la gr` ve =
e e e e e

182 Awkward cases of gender identity
Although in many, many cases it is possible to deduce the gender of a noun from its
ending, we have seen that occasionally there are exceptions to the patterns outlined
above. In addition to those examples that muddy the gender-assignment waters, there
are other cases where it is dif¬cult to guess the gender of a noun from its form, and there
is no other recourse but to commit speci¬c forms and genders to memory. What follows
is a list of reasonably common nouns whose gender may not be immediately obvious.

1 These nouns are of masculine gender “
l™age = age, l™antidote = antidote, l™atome = atom, l™autoradio = car radio, le cadavre
= corpse, le calme = calmness, le caract` re = character, le charme = charm, le choix =
choice, le crime = crime, le culte = worship, le dialecte = dialect, le dilemme = dilemma,
l™´ change = exchange, l™´ di¬ce = building, l™´ lastique = rubber band, l™embl` me =
e e e e
emblem, l™´ pisode = episode, l™espace = space, l™exemple = example, le ¬‚euve = river,
le formulaire = form (to ¬ll in), le g´ n´ rique = credits, l™h´ misph` re = hemisphere,
ee e e
l™incendie = ¬re, l™insecte = insect, l™interm` de = interlude, l™intervalle = interval,
le l´ gume = vegetable, le liquide = liquid, le luxe = luxury, le manque = lack, le
mascara = mascara, le masque = mask, les m´ dias = media, le m´ rite = merit, le
e e
micro-ondes = microwave (oven), le mime = mime, le minuit = midnight, le mol´ cule e
= molecule, le monopole = monopoly, le moustique = mosquito, le mythe = myth,
l™ongle = nail, l™orchestre = orchestra, l™organe = organ, le panorama = panorama,
le parachute = parachute, le parapluie = umbrella, le p´ tale = petal, quelque chose
= something, le quota = quota, le reproche = reproach, le reste = remainder, le rˆ ve =
dream, le rire = laughter, le saxophone = saxophone, le service = service, le silence =
silence, le sourire = smile, le squelette = skeleton, le suicide = suicide, le symptome

183 Names of countries, towns, rivers

= symptom, le tonnerre = thunder, le trombone = trombone, paper clip, le troph´ e =
trophy, l™uniforme = uniform, l™ustensile = utensil, le vice = vice
quelque chose “
C´ l´ brer le nouvel an en famille, c™est cr´ er un petit quelque chose
ee e
d™inoubliable = celebrating the New Year as a family is to create a little unforgettable something
2 These nouns are of feminine gender “
l™ancre = anchor, l™annexe = annex, l™art` re = artery, l™atmosph` re = atmo-
e e
sphere, la caract´ ristique = characteristic, la cendre = ash, la cible = target,
la cime = summit, la circulaire = circular, la croix = cross, la dent = tooth,
la dynamo = dynamo, l™´ nigme = enigma, l™esp` ce = species, sort, l™extase =
e e
ecstasy, la forˆ t = forest, la fourmi = ant, l™horreur = horror, l™idole = idol, la
liqueur = liqueur, la noix = nut, l™oasis = oasis, l™ombre = shade, l™orbite =
orbit, la pantomime = pantomime, la p´ dale = pedal, la p´ nicilline =
e e
penicillin, la recrue = recruit, la sentinelle = sentry, la sph` re = sphere, la surface =
surface, la toux = cough, la victime = victim, la vid´ o = video, la vis = screw

183 Names of countries, towns and rivers
The principle is that if the name of the country, town or river ends in “e, it is feminine;
otherwise it is masculine. There are a few exceptions.

1 Countries
Feminine names
la Bolivie, la Chine, la France, la Grande-Bretagne, la Jama¨que, la Libye,
la Russie, la Somalie, la Tanzanie
exceptions “ le Cambodge, le Mexique, le Mozambique, le Zimbabwe
Masculine names
le Br´ sil, le Canada, le Danemark, les Etats-Unis, le Kenya, le Niger, le
Pakistan, le P´ rou, le Portugal, le Vietnam
Usage of prepositions with names of countries is discussed in 466.

2 Towns
L™´ t´ Paris s™est d´ barrass´ d™une bonne partie de sa population = in summer
ee e e
Paris divested itself of a large proportion of its population
Besancon est entour´ de montagnes = Besan¸on is surrounded by mountains
¸ e
Marseille est situ´ e a l™est de la bouche du Rhone = Marseilles is situated to the east
e` ˆ
of the mouth of the Rhˆne
Valenciennes a et´ partiellement d´ truite pendant la deuxi` me guerre
e e
mondiale = Valenciennes was partly destroyed during the Second World War

3 Rivers
Feminine names
la Loire, la Marne, la Seine
exception “ le Rhone


Masculine names
le Lot, le Rhin, le Tarn

4 French regions
le Languedoc, le Limousin, le Roussillon
l™Auvergne, la Bretagne, la Normandie

5 French departments
le Cantal, le Doubs, le Morbihan
la Corr` ze, la Haute-Savoie, la Vaucluse
exception “ le Finist` re

6 American states
Sometimes there are distinctive French names for certain American States; these tend to
be feminine.
la Californie, la Caroline du Nord, la Caroline du Sud, la Floride, la
G´ orgie, la Louisiane, la Pennsylvanie, la Virginie
exception “ le Nouveau-Mexique “ see 183
Those names which do not have a distinctive French form are masculine “
le Dakota du Nord, le Montana, le Texas

7 British counties
These are nearly always masculine.
le Nottinghamshire, le Suffolk, le Wiltshire
exception “ les Cornouailles (fpl) = Cornwall

184 Homonyms
Nouns that are pronounced the same and/or are identical in form but have different
meanings are known as homonyms.
The ¬rst list consists of orthographic homonyms “ identical in spelling and pronunci-
ation. In many cases, one of the meanings is more common than the other.

un aide = assistant le champagne = champagne
l™aide (F) = help, female assistant la Champagne = Champagne region
le chose = thingummybob le crˆ pe = crepe (material)
la chose = thing une crˆ pe = pancake
le critique = critic le ¬nale = ¬nale (in music)
la critique = criticism la ¬nale = ¬nal (in sport)
le garde = guard, warden le greffe = record of¬ce
la garde = protection, nurse la greffe = graft, transplant

184 Homonyms

le livre = book le manche = handle
la livre = pound (weight, money) la manche = sleeve, leg (in sport);
la Manche = the English Channel
le manoeuvre = labourer le m´ moire = dissertation
la manoeuvre = manoeuvre la m´ moire = memory
le merci = thank-you le mode = method
la merci = mercy la mode = fashion
le mort = dead person le page = page-boy
la mort = death la page = page
le pendule = pendulum le physique = physique
la pendule = clock la physique = physics
le poˆ le = stove le politique = politician
la poˆ le = frying pan la politique = politics
le poste = job, station, set (radio, TV) le solde = balance, sale, bargain
la poste = postal services la solde = pay
le somme = snooze le tour = tour, trick
la somme = sum, amount la tour = tower
le vague = vagueness le vapeur = steamer
la vague = wave la vapeur = steam
le voile = veil
le vase = vase
la voile = sail
la vase = mud, slime

The second list is a small selection of homonyms that are pronounced the same but spelt
differently and with different genders. Such homonyms are extremely common in French
and underline the importance of correct spelling in written French.

l™air (M) = air le bal = ball (dance)
l™` re (F) = era la balle = bullet, ball (spherical)
le bar = bar (in restaurant) le capital = capital, assets
la barre = bar (of wood, metal) la capitale = capital city, letter
le chˆ ne = oak tree le col = collar, pass (in mountains)
la chaˆne = chain la colle = glue, detention
le cours = course, waterway le fait = fact
le court = court (in tennis) la fˆ te = festival
la cour = courtyard
le foie = liver le maire = mayor
la foi = faith la mer = sea
la fois = time, occasion la m` re = mother
le p` re = father le parti = (political) party
la paire = pair, couple la partie = part

le poids = weight le pot = pot
le pois = pea la peau = skin
la poix = pitch
le sel = salt le taon = horse¬‚y
la selle = saddle le ton = tone

185 Nouns requiring special attention
A very small number of nouns display unusual behaviour in terms of their gender assign-
ment. Here are two of them.
les gens = people “ adjectives preceding the noun are feminine in form but retain their
masculine form when they follow it, either immediately or after a verb “
Certaines gens le disent = certain people say that
Les bonnes gens de Paris sont tr` s gentils = the good people of Paris are very kind
J™ai horreur des gens bavards = I can™t bear people who talk too much
Il y a des gens malheureux partout = there are unhappy people everywhere
un/une oeuvre = work (of literature, art) is feminine when it refers to an individual
piece of work or a number of individual pieces of work, but masculine when the works
are considered as a single entity “
Simenon acheva son dernier roman en 1972, encore une oeuvre fascinante
= Simenon completed his last novel in 1972, yet another fascinating work
L™oeuvre complet de Chopin = Chopin™s complete works

186 Nouns designating people and animals
As mentioned above, usually grammatical gender and sexual gender coincide, so that a
female person or animal is designated by feminine gender and a male person or animal
by masculine gender “
un homme = man, le ¬ls = son, le garcon = boy, le neveu = nephew, un oncle
= uncle, le p` re = father, le b´ lier = ram, le coq = cockerel, un etalon = stallion, le
e e
taureau = bull
la femme = woman, la ¬lle = girl, daughter, la m` re = mother, la ni` ce = niece, la
e e
tante = aunt, la brebis = ewe, la poule = hen, la jument = mare, la vache = cow
In the case of animals, a generic term covering both sexes sometimes exists and is
normally masculine “ le cheval = horse, le mouton = sheep.
Sometimes the names for the two sexes of animals are closely connected, often the
feminine being derived from the masculine “ le chat, la chatte, le chien, la chienne,
le lion, la lionne “ and in such cases as these, it is the masculine form that serves as
the generic. In the case of le canard, la cane, it is the masculine form that is derived
from the feminine, but the masculine form remains the generic.

One form, two genders
Nouns such as the following may be masculine or feminine according to the sex of
the person designated “ adulte = adult, camarade = friend, coll` gue = colleague,

187 Gender of compound nouns

el` ve = pupil, enfant = child, esclave = slave, gosse = kid, ministre = minister,
photographe = photographer, rebelle = rebel, and nouns ending in “aire and
“iste: adversaire = enemy, biblioth´ caire = librarian, fonctionnaire = civil
servant, secr´ taire = secretary, dentiste = dentist, journaliste = journalist, touriste =

Related forms, two genders
Very often, an “e is added to the masculine form of a noun designating a person, to
indicate the corresponding female “
un avocat, une avocate = lawyer, un candidat, une candidate = candidate, un
d´ put´ , une d´ put´ e = deputy, member of parliament, un employ´ , une employ´ e =
e e e e e e
employee, un magistrat, une magistrate = magistrate.
On other occasions, a masculine suf¬x is replaced by the corresponding feminine
suf¬x to supply the feminine counterpart “ le berger, la berg` re = shepherd, shepherdess,
un hote, une hotesse = host, hostess, le prince, la princesse = prince, princess, un
ˆ ˆ
ambassadeur, une ambassadrice = ambassador, le directeur, la directrice =
headteacher, le chanteur, la chanteuse = singer, le voleur, la voleuse = thief, le
caissier, la caissi` re = checkout operator, le fermier, la fermi` re = farmer.
e e

Use of femme + masculine noun
On yet other occasions, in order to indicate a woman exercising a certain profession, the
word femme is used with the masculine noun “ une femme auteur = female writer,
une femme ing´ nieur = female engineer, une femme m´ decin = female doctor. The
e e
consequence of this is that sometimes, when it is not appropriate or necessary to include
the word femme, the masculine noun is used to refer to the female author, engineer,
etc “
Sophie est devenue ing´ nieur = Sophie became an engineer
Use of feminine noun to designate male
The reverse situation also occurs, whereby a feminine noun is used to designate a male
person “ as stated above, personne = person and victime = victim are always feminine,
whether they refer to a female or male, and the same applies to the following nouns “
la recrue = recruit, la sentinelle = sentry, la star = star, celebrity, la vedette = star,

187 Gender of compound nouns
Nouns that are formed by linking two or more words together by a hyphen or hyphens
are known as compound nouns. On other occasions, no hyphen is used (use of the hyphen
seems to depend upon historical acceptance and validation of the term), and the close
relationship of the combined words justi¬es their also being considered compounds “
eg une bande dessin´ e = comic strip “ bande and dessin´ e cannot be separated by
e e
another adjective; une bande dessin´ e amusante = a funny comic strip (not une
bande amusante dessin´ e).e
A number of different types of compound nouns exist. The gender of the compound
noun depends upon the structure of the compound.


1 Noun + noun
The gender of this type of compound noun is assigned according to the gender of the
head-word, usually the ¬rst noun “
un bateau-usine = factory ship
un chou-¬‚eur = cauli¬‚ower
un roman-BD = strip-cartoon novel
un spectateur-auditeur = viewer
une cit´ -satellite = satellite town
une id´ e-choc = startling idea
une porte-fenˆ tre = French window
une ville-fantome = ghost town

2 Adjective + noun or noun + adjective
The gender is assigned according to the gender of the noun.
le bas-ventre = lower stomach
un coffre-fort = safe
un grand-p` re = grandfather
les Pays-Bas = Netherlands
un rond-point = roundabout
une bande dessin´ e = comic strip
une chauve-souris = bat
une chaise roulante = wheelchair
une grand-m` re = grandmother
la haute-¬d´ lit´ = hi-¬
exception “ le rouge-gorge = robin

3 Verb + noun or verb + verb
All such compounds are masculine in gender.
un chauffe-eau = water-heater
le laisser-aller = sloppiness
le pare-brise = windscreen
un porte-avions = aircraft carrier
le savoir-faire = know-how
un s` che-cheveux = hair-drier

4 Adverb or preposition + noun
The gender is assigned according to the gender of the noun, except when a plural is
concerned, when masculine gender operates.
un demi-centre = half-back
un entre-deux-vols = stopover
les hors-travail (mpl) = unemployed
un sans-papier = illegal immigrant
une arri` re-pens´ e = ulterior motive
e e
l™avant-garde (f) = avant-garde
une contre-r´ volution = counter-revolution

188 Count and mass nouns

la demi-¬nale = semi-¬nal
une mini-jupe = mini-skirt
un deux-roues = two-wheeler
un mille-pattes = centipede
un quatre-heures = afternoon snack

5 Noun + prepositional phrase
The gender of the ¬rst noun determines the gender of the compound.
un arc-en-ciel = rainbow
un nid de poule = pothole
un pot-de-vin = bribe
une epingle a nourrice = safety pin
´ `
une lune de miel = honeymoon
la mise sous cloche = putting on the back-burner

6 Phrase
Such compounds are always masculine.
un je ne sais quoi = certain something
un pas-de-chance = no-hoper
le plus-que-parfait = pluperfect tense
le prˆ t-a-porter = ready-to-wear clothes
le va-et-vient = coming and going
le va-t™en-guerre = warmonger


188 Count and mass nouns
Concrete nouns may be divided into two types according to whether they have a plural
form or not.
Count nouns, as their name implies, are countable, that is to say they denote single
items which can be counted; they therefore have both a singular and a plural form “
une boisson “ des boissons = drink “ drinks, un guide “ des guides = guide “
guides, un pantalon “ des pantalons = a pair of trousers “ pairs of trousers, une
voiture “ des voitures = car “ cars
Mass nouns, on the other hand, are not countable; they denote nouns which refer
to items not as individual entities but as a single unit, and they do not have a plural
form “
le bl´ = corn, la farine = ¬‚our, le lait = milk, le sable = sand, le sucre = sugar
Some nouns cross the border between the two types and can be both count and mass
nouns (see 192) “
le fromage = cheese (in general), un fromage = type of cheese, les fromages de
France = the cheeses of France, le pain = bread (in general), un pain = loaf of bread, un


etalage de pains = a display of loaves of bread, le vin = wine (in general), un vin = type
of wine, les vins de France = French wines
Abstract nouns tend not to be used in the plural “
l™amour = love, la beaut´ = beauty, la haine = hatred, l™orgueil = pride

189 Markers for forming the plural of nouns
1 By far the most common way of indicating a plural is to add an “s to the singular form
of the noun.
This is perfectly clear in written French. However, in the majority of cases in spoken
French, it is not possible to distinguish the plural form of a noun from the singular form in
this way, since the “s is not sounded. Other markers are called upon to con¬rm whether
a singular or plural form is intended, by the use, for example, of determiners, forms of
the verb and so on “


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